Coming from New Zealand, the sight of an early Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution isn’t all that uncommon for me; we have always had a love for the rally-bred, all-wheel drive 2.0-litre turbo machine, and a good proportion of the world’s early Evo supply can be found in our little part of the world.
I was part of the Speedhunters team that hit Gatebil Rudskogen recently – it was my first time there and it’s fair to say that the entire tuning landscape was a complete change for me as most of the Japanese machinery I’m more accustomed to was replaced by amazing Euro builds. BMWs, Mercs, Audis and of course, plenty of Volvos.
There were, of course, a good handful of nicely built Japanese cars at Rudskogen too, and even a smattering of the Mitsubishi Evolutions that I’d become so accustomed to growing up in New Zealand, though only a single early Evo – a simple white example I had spotted sitting amongst the swirling dust in the paddock on Thursday night.
To be honest, I didn’t take much notice at the time above a cursory, ‘Oh look, a CD9A, that’s weird,’ thought to myself before moving on. Things were different come Friday morning, though. Excited to shoot the Gatebil madness I had seen and heard so much about, I was straight out onto the pit wall first thing and sure enough, it was amazing.
I found the perfect spot midway down the front straight and began shooting all types of interesting cars as they screamed past. Swinging my lens back towards the start of the front straight after reeling off some shots of a tightly packed group of Audis and Volvos as they thundered past, all I could see was a fluffy white cloud blanketing the final corner, with a lonely sedan swinging wildly from one side of the bitumen to the other before straightening up and ripping down the track towards me, followed by a wispy trail of white smoke like a gypsy on her wedding day. Surely not…
After grabbing a few more shots as the Evo came past, a quick jam on the zoom button and a look at the expression plastered across the passenger’s face, which I can only assume is similar to what I looked like the first time I discovered all the wonderful things a toilet in Japan can do (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about…), told me pretty much everything I needed to know.
As soon as this session was over, I headed back to the pits to go find this mysterious machine.
Back amongst the sea of people in the paddock, I was happy to spot an open bonnet with its signature pair of Evo vents in the distance. Approaching the pit bay, things suddenly became a lot clearer as a tell-tale Chevrolet LS intake manifold came into view, set far back into the firewall of the Evo. Already things were looking pretty damn interesting, but wait a minute, where’s that polished intake pipe going?
My day just got better and better with every step taken towards the Mitsubishi. Slowly, the gunmetal radiator support receded to reveal compressor and exhaust housings that looked like they were originally designed to blow boost through a cruise liner engine. This settled it, there was no way we were leaving Rudskogen without getting this car out on track for a photoshoot.Making It Fit
The 1993 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s owner, Joakim Sturve, soon introduced himself and we quickly got talking about the build. Joakim had already been creating cool and interesting cars for while when he decided it was time to build something Chevy LS V8-powered. After first looking at using a BMW E28 base, he instead happened upon the early Evo completely by chance during a ‘for sale’ browsing session at the hospital while waiting for his first child to be born.
Joakim politely waited a couple of days after returning from the hospital before the excitement got too much for him and a trailer was hitched for the 800-kilometre journey to go pick up the rolling shell. As these things tend to go, Joakim at first thought it would be fairly simple conversion, and a 6.0-litre LS2/six-speed Tremec T56 gearbox package out of a Cadillac CTS-V was sourced from the States.
Replacing an east-west mounted inline four with a north-south V8 was never going to be easy, but Joakim, who does nearly all the work on the car himself, persevered, fabricating a new cross member to support the motor and sit it nice and far back into the car for the ideal weight balance.
Suspension pick up points were also revised to allow the 18×9-inch BMW M3 front wheels to sit back in the centre of the arch, which solves a lot of potential problems with all the extra steering lock provided by the custom CNC’d hubs.
With the engine sitting so far back, the stock firewall had to go, so it was removed entirely and replaced, along with the transmission tunnel, which needed to be vastly bigger to accommodate the Tremec gearbox. The in-cabin allowances Joakim had to make for the rear of the engine give you an idea as to just how far back the Chev motor needs to sit.
A custom driveshaft runs out a Ford 8.8-inch diff housing a Ford Motorsport LSD and high-strength Factory Five axles. Though the rear subframe and suspension pick up points are factory Evo, everything else has been custom-made, including all the arms and hubs, which, like the front, run a 5×120 BMW stud pattern.
After respraying the car in a simple Mercedes-Benz white, a full rollcage was fitted. Joakim was able to buy all the pre-shaped tubing from Swedish company Finess and then do all the welding himself. You’ll also notice that the car is left-hand drive, which these production Evolutions never were – early into the project, Joakim picked up a base model Lancer donor car and swapped everything over to suit.
Sparco seats were also fitted, though a full 40cm further back from the original mounting points.
The factory Evo brake booster and pedalbox arrangement was never going to work, so it was replaced with Wilwood gear.
The pedal box and booster actuates Dynalite calipers clamping on to BMW E36 discs in the rear and Superlite calipers with Corvette C5 discs up front.
Kept company by a Wilwood hydraulic handbrake.
After plenty of perseverance, Joakim finally got the car running early last year with the LS2 howling in naturally aspirated form. Pushing 405hp at the wheels, the V8 provided plenty of power for the 1300kg car, but, keeping in line with what seems to be the Scandinavian way, it just wasn’t enough. Joakim needed more. Much more…We Need More Power, Captain!
A summer was spent hammering the car on track, after which Joakim headed back to his garage as the days quickly grew shorter and the temperatures plummeted to levels most of us would struggle to comprehend, let alone endure. He was now on the hunt for a couple of hundred extra horsepower and once he figured out just how hard and expensive it would be to squeeze that kind of grunt out of a naturally aspirated engine, Joakim instead looked at adding boost.
After doing his research, which most importantly included a few long conversations with John Bewley at Lil Jon’s Motorsport Solutions in Kentucky, Joakim figured out the perfect set up based around a huge single BorgWarner S471 turbo sitting in front of the motor. John has had years of experience with these motors knew exactly what was needed to create a torquey, responsive power delivery that would be good for over 600hp at the wheels.
John not only supplied the turbo, but also a pair of wastegates, a blow-off valve and a custom camshaft of his own design, specifically created for turbo applications.
As most will know, the LS motors are all-alloy in their construction, and while lightweight and relatively strong for NA applications, they don’t hold up so well when boost starts getting crammed down their throat. The GM LQ series of motors however, are very similar to the LS, but run a much stronger iron block and although the 35kg weight difference is significant, it’s more than worth it for the extra piece of mind.
Joakim decided he liked the idea of not having to worry about his rods staying inside his engine, and went about sourcing a 6.0-litre LQ, which he eventually found locally in Sweden after coming across a wrecked H2 Hummer that was essentially brand-new, with only 100km on the clock. Luckily, the Hummer came with the LQ4, which is one of two LQ variants. The other engine, the LQ9, while generally considered more desirable, runs flat-top pistons for a higher compression ratio of 10.4:1, whereas the LQ4’s dished pistons lower the ratio to 9.5:1 – far better for turbo applications.
Once the LS was pulled and replaced with the LQ, Joakim got started on getting the motor turbocharged. He designed and fabricated a set of twin-entry exhaust manifolds, which, according to John Bewley, allows the turbo to reach full boost about 800rpm earlier than a single-entry design.
Joakim backs that up, too. After fitting a bigger fuel system, which now drinks E85 from a custom 70-litre baffled alloy tank…
Plus a large front mounted intercooler and all the necessary supporting modifications, the Hungarian-sourced VEMS computer was re-tuned to the sound of 642 horsepower at the wheels, which it achieves at only 2,800rpm. The numbers are nice, of course, but what does that all really mean?
Pure, unadulterated aggression. Seeing this car rip past you on full lock with smoke billowing from the rear is an experience in itself, but hearing it is a whole different game. The big V8 howls as you would expect, and when you combine that with the joyous soundtrack of the huge BorgWarner spooling up and the two 40mm external wastegates dumping white-hot exhaust gas, you have pure automotive bliss.
But again, all you really need to know about how this car drives can be found back at the start of this story and the look on Joakim’s passenger’s face. Any car that can make a grown man seemingly giggle like a school girl gets an instant stamp of approval from us, but when that ability is combined with high quality workmanship and outside-the-box thinking, you’ve got one of our favourite builds to come out of Gatebil Rudskogen for 2014.
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